They don't tell you in hygiene school that you're also going to be a psychologist, a travel agent, a teacher, or a referee. As rewarding as a career in dental hygiene may be, a day of work also ranges between mental exhaustion and consecutive comedy hours. After all, we care for the general public, and a dental office sometimes brings out very interesting sides of people! We hygienists can use an insider's list of tips and tricks, so fold this away with your academic material.
I'm always interested in the phenomenon which is the emotional relief gained from declarations at the threshold of my operatory. "I hate being here!" I didn't see that on the RSVP for the invitation I sent you. "I didn't get to brush after lunch!" No worries, but please don't tell me what you ate. "I haven't been flossing as much as I should!" So the last time was your last visit, got it."I've been really busy and on vacation, and you know, Covid." Your teeth won't sign that excuse note.
The disclaimer patient is often our anxious or defensive patient. They don't want to be "in trouble," and they want to go home as quickly as possible. This is a great opportunity for me to use my American Eagle XP® Sharpen-Free and Sharpen-Free Thin Instruments, which scale their teeth comfortably right out the door (instead of anxiously out of the chair). These ever-sharp instruments help decrease auditory discomfort by removing deposit quickly and quietly.
I love my typodont patients. These are the ones that sit so perfectly still and stay open wide for so long that you zone out and forget you're working on a person? (Oh, and they never refuse to swallow their saliva!) With these patients, I can use my full armamentarium of scalers since I have excellent access to all teeth and never feel rushed. This patient is Gracey good and XP-onentially pleasant.
The Show and Teller
The hour (if you even have that) is precious time; as hygienists, we feel that squeeze, but some patients are more than happy to spend fifty minutes of it talking. As their hygienist, it's as if we've been hired for the hour to look at all their pictures on their phone (retrieved painfully slow) and listen to every personal story they can think of. I must, and I cannot stress this enough, use a universal scaler like the Columbia 13-14 on this patient. If I stop to switch instruments, we're into another epic. If I must switch an instrument, I keep the mirror in their mouth while I do it. And sometimes even that doesn't stop them!
The Patient That Sat Behind You in Hygiene School
A standoff ensues in my operatory, the patient and I are still standing, "I've been coming to the dentist since before you were born!" I don't make a move, but finally the patient erupts with kidding-not-kidding laughter and sits down. I laugh along with them nervously before getting the "do not do" list because they know so much more than I do about dentistry and what their appointment should entail. Here's a true story list:
No cavitron (mmm non-negotiable).
Only the "gold" instruments (I mean, honestly, this one I get).
Keep the chair all the way up (as if this is a haircut instead of a dental visit).
No suction (?).
The first-timer patient isn't really a first-timer, but they do always sit in your operator chair before being instructed to sit in the patient chair and then awkwardly straddle the patient chair to get into their seat. They have no idea why they're here. Any new concerns since your last cleaning? "Yeah, my ankle has poison ivy." They never know what will happen during the visit. Wildly entertained by this, particularly when they've arrived for something like SRP when they think it's a "check" or vice versa; I've slipped a few times and flat-out asked if they just show up to anything they get a phone call for and not knowing why. They always shrug and say, "Yeah." I'm a little jealous of the unorganized bliss. What's great is they make no special accommodation demands and are happy to listen to oral hygiene instruction.
The Only Here for the Goody Bag Patient
This is the patient that isn't very interested in what's going on with their teeth or oral hygiene instruction. They don't care much about new dental gadgets on the market or the benefits of fluoride. Their weekend was always "good," and there was never a chief complaint. I feel like they are literally just here for the goody bag. In fact, asking about getting a goody bag may be the most you hear from them the whole appointment. In a way, they make your visits an easy day, but you have to wonder, do they know they sell toothbrushes at the store? On that note, check that they are replacing their toothbrushes when you give them one. Recently when sorting out if a patient needed a new one since the last visit, they exclaimed, "No wonder I get a toothbrush every time I go to the dentist!" They have been running the same toothbrush through the dishwasher. FOR TWENTY YEARS.
It's A Well-Rounded Career
How many personalities have you mastered throughout your dental hygiene career? I'm sure you've got some special characters I've left out, but maybe you've met a few of the ones I've mentioned. Thanks to American Eagle XP® Sharpen-Free and Sharpen-Free Thin Instruments and these patients, there is never a dull moment.